MUSÉE DES BEAUX-ARTS

“Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe”

MUSÉE DES BEAUX-ARTS

At last one can really begin to get a feeling for the range of the Symbolist ethos. Janus-faced, it looked back to Romanticism and forward to Modernism, shuttling between worldliness and renunciation, religiosity and decadence, socialism and royalism, nostalgia and rupture, allegory and abstraction. This vast reexamination of Symbolism in the visual arts, organized by a team of curators under the direction of Jean Clair, was ambitious not just in its scale (some 600 objects by 189 artists) but in its inclusiveness in terms both of medium (not only painting, sculpture, and graphic art, but photography and the decorative arts as well) and geographical range.

The rub, however, is the sheer quantity of atrocious art that has had to be included. The problem is not with the curatorial selection, which is judicious. Rather it is that, while Symbolism in literature was an artistically positive

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